Coach's Corner

Last week I got two snitty messages. One reader observed, regarding my comments on Latrell Sprewell, that I was "regurgitating news I read that morning in the Dallas Morning News, passing it off as some sort of brilliant insight of my own." Another accused me of "outright plagiarism." To be honest, I'm surprised this was the first time I've received comments like this. Let me tell you more about the mechanics of this column than you may want to know. Contrary to what you see in the movies, on Wednesday, the night before Thursday release, the Chronicle office is not abuzz with reporters rushing in with late-breaking stories or anybody yelling anything about stopping the presses. Most of the stories you read today were written, proofed, and typeset a week ago. I have one of the latest deadlines at the paper. My column must be finished and in on Monday, meaning at least three days ago.

It's frustrating for me to see what was an original observation thought up two days later by another columnist, making it appear like I stole their idea. This is, unfortunately, the danger inherent in an opinion column with a four-day lag until publication. So, anyway, here's another Sprewell thought I haven't seen anywhere... yet.

In a week, it's become politically incorrect to say that NBA boss David Stern did a courageous and correct thing in kicking Sprewell out of the league. Some talk- show pundits, soft-in-the-head columnists, and broadcasters are, to my astonishment, whining about poor Latrell's violated rights and due process... whatever that means. Stern did what a commissioner is supposed to do, which is to look out for the best interests of the game. Stern knew damn well that the day after Golden State fired Sprewell, a slew of basketball teams would trip over themselves to rehire him, in a humiliating, embarrassing effort to win a few more games. Stern -- at the helm of the most media-conscious sports league -- kept the game from embarrassing itself further. I hope he gives not a single inch to those who counsel compromise. Sprewell deserves every day of this punishment.

Random thoughts on the NFL: Nothing would make me happier than to give the Dallas media what it wants: ex-Cowboy coaches Norv Turner or Dave Wannstedt. I once noted Turner was the Teflon coach. Though his teams stunk, he never seemed to get any blame. This season's done nothing to change my mind, except people -- not in Dallas -- are starting to catch on. Other than looking like a football coach, Wannstedt, in five years in Chicago, has taken a bad team and made it worse. I think either would make a great Cowboy coach!... On a corollary subject, let's talk about the reason for all Cowboy troubles, Barry Switzer. Dallas fan/media dogma goes something like this. If only Jimmy Johnson were still here: Dallas would be on their way to their fifth Super Bowl, Jay Novacek would be running free as the wind, Charles Haley's back would be strong as a redwood, Erik Williams would be a more cautious motorist, Darrell Johnston's neck would turn, Emmitt Smith would still be 24, all those free agents would still be here, Nate Newton would weigh 280, Michael Irvin would head the Boy Scouts of America, Deion's ribs would not break, Mark Tuinei would have new knees, Leon Lett would say no, Ernie's plays would work, and Troy would stop grousing because practice would be "disciplined." If only Jimmy were still here... Kordell Stewart has surprised me. I thought by this time Mike Tomczak would be leading the Steelers nowhere... Look for an early San Francisco playoff exit... Watching player after player carted off the field, I'm thinking the savagery of the game is getting out of hand... Something doesn't seem right with Steve Young... There's nothing wrong with Troy Aikman. Put him behind Tampa Bay's offensive line and he'd be in another Super Bowl... Despite what we read every day, the collapse of Dallas is not the biggest negative surprise of this season. The woeful efforts in Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Oakland, where so much more was expected, are worse... It's said the difference in talent level, from Green Bay to Oakland, is only really visible in muted, subtle shades. Want proof what a difference one man can make? Last year's Jets were 1-15. This team is going to make the playoffs. The only difference? Bill Parcells. The Steelers are raped and pillaged by free agency every year. What holds them together? Bill Cowher. The list of failed coaches in Tampa Bay will fill up this column. Until Tony Dungy. Find me anyone -- anyone! -- who didn't pick the New York Giants last in a bad division. The Giant offense couldn't move the ball against a John Mackovic defense. Danny Kanell makes Heath Shuler look like Joe Montana. I'd never heard of Jim Fassell. I just had to look up his name. Last year's 6-10 team wins the East. An unknown college coach with a losing record from Stanford takes over a storied, but seemingly decaying franchise in San Francisco. Shazam, they're 11-2... I don't trust the Chiefs. Too much playoff heartbreak... Good things seem to be happening for Pittsburgh. I like them and Green Bay in the Super Bowl... Why does everyone think George Seifert is such a hot bargain?

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